Reflection: Dec 2: Be the Signs of Hope

Reflection for Dec. 2, 2018 (Advent 1)

Jeremiah 33:14-16/ Luke 21:25-36

Be the Signs of Hope

I remember hearing about the American dream when I was growing up in Korea. A lot of Koreans dreamed of moving to the United States. Even when I was in my thirties and studying at the theological school in New Jersey, a lot of Korean pastors were studying there with me because they wanted to stay in the United States. Honestly, as someone who has lived both in the United States and in Canada, I know that Canada is a better country; but they make those plans in the hope that life would be better there. I came to Canada because I know that life is better for me personally here. The American dream continues even now with a lot of people trying to escape extreme poverty or for safety. They consider life in the United States as their best hope for survival. So, when the US government fires tear gas at them at the border, even at little children, it’s an act of destroying the hope of desperate people. 

Even for us ordinary people living a relatively safe and comfortable life, sometimes we need help and hope. When we are down, we hear advice to focus on the positive to help us through hard times. “Be grateful for what you have, instead of complaining or lamenting about what you don’t have.” “Count your blessings.” We all go through challenges and difficulties in life sometimes, so we all need hope to hang onto, not only the desperate people such as asylum seekers. In the Bible, we can see the people of Israel when they were desperate and desperately looking for hope. Prophets of the Old Testament brought messages of hope to their people. God would send them a chosen one to restore the nation of Israel and restore its people to their past glory, which was the reign of David. Therefore, it makes sense that they hoped for God’s chosen one to come from David’s lineage. The messiah that Israel started waiting for is, one, a king to restore the nation, and two, from King David’s line. Their idea of salvation was different from our Christian one. That is why a lot of Jesus’ disciples were disappointed when he didn’t turn out to be a political rebel, Judas, being the most significant one. And they all looked for signs of hope. A special star guiding mysterious foreigners must have been quite an attractive and believable story to the ancient people.

But signs do not only come in supernatural forms. Even rational and scientific creatures like us can see signs, just not supernatural ones. When Jesus mentions that they can know summer is coming by observing the fig tree, that is something we can relate to. As I remember from my childhood, rainfall was imminent when grandmas and grandpas had worse joint pain than usual. We know that it’s because of the humidity level in the air; nothing supernatural or superstitious. But Jesus also says that we should be vigilant and watch out for signs. We are not exactly waiting for the end of the world too much, but we can learn from different signs from nature that we are destroying the environment. Some people think the end of the world will come as an environmental disaster, which is believable. So, we listen to scientists and environmental activists and think, “We should start protecting the earth now, or else there might be no future for our descendants.” For those who care about the environment, the movements to reduce waste, recycle, and writing letters and protesting for an environmentally conscious policies are the hope. I’m sure, for those with low and fixed incomes struggling to make their ends met, receiving help from the food bank is hope. For people of colour, seeing role models of colour is hope. These are some of the many faces of hope. Different people need different types of hope; hope comes in different forms. The author of Psalm 25 that we read today put his hope in God; his trust in God’s goodness. 

As people of God preparing for Christmas, the birth of the special child who gave hope to millions and billions throughout history, reminds us that we should become hope for others as our teacher Jesus was for many. We constantly look for signs of hope when we need help. There are many people in the world who are more desperate than us. When countries such as Germany and Canada welcome refugees, that is the sign of hope for a lot of desperate people. When someone can’t pay all the bills and put food on the table, help from food bank is hope. When a person of colour or a gay person suffer bigotry and discrimination, white people or heterosexual people standing up for them is a sign of hope. When good men march alongside women in the women’s day march, supporting gender equality, it is a sign of hope for women. 

Jesus came to earth to proclaim God’s liberating reign of love and justice, for which he lived and died. His followers are called to, well, “follow” in his footstep and work to bring God’s reign on earth. We start the first week of Advent with the theme of hope. We are all looking for signs of hope. If Jesus was the sign of hope for so many who followed him, as his followers, we should be the signs of hope for others. Treating others with compassion, providing help and support for those who need them, standing up for justice even if we belong to the privileged groups, this is how we follow Jesus and be the signs of hope for others. Thomas a Kempis wrote a classical book called Imitating Christ; as followers of Jesus, let us imitate the human Jesus and the values for which he stood. During this Advent and Christmas season, let us remember our call to imitate Jesus and follow his footsteps of life of humility and service. With the spirit of humility and service, let us become the signs of hope to our neighbors as we wait for Christmas.

Rev. Sunny Kim

Reflection: Nov 25: Not of This World

Reflection for Nov. 25, 2018 (Reign of Christ Sunday)

2 Samuel 23:1-4/ John 18:33-37

Not of This World

Today, let’s talk about monarchy. I don’t usually think we belong to the queen, but then sometimes, it hits me by surprise; like when we sang God Save the Queen at the Remembrance Day Ceremony. Do you all know the words to that song? I don’t! Anyway, when we learn about kings and queens from history, we can see that some monarchs are dubbed “great”. In the Korean history, we have the Great King Sejong. We have some other kings who are dubbed “great” for being military heroes, but Great King Sejong, who was not military at all, is considered the best king Korea has ever had. He is most famous for developing the Korean alphabet designed to be easy enough for anyone to learn. Of course, he didn’t do it himself; he commissioned scholars to do it. He also encouraged and supported scientists, among whom was the son of a slave woman, which, as you could imagine, was a scandal at the time. But the king saw how brilliant he was and didn’t care about his background. This man ended up inventing so many things, including a device that measures rainfall. I find it noteworthy that among the “great” kings in our history, King Sejong, and not any of the great military heroes, is considered the best one. His reign was driven by his love for his subjects rather than by his vain desire to conquer and become a hero. Unfortunately, a monarch that actually cares about his or her subjects seems rare. Thus is the way of our humanly world, I guess. more —>

Reflection: Nov 11: God’s Vision of Peace

Reflection for Nov. 11, 2018 (Remembrance Day)

Isaiah 2:2-5/ Colossians 3:12-15

God’s Vision of Peace

Today is the day we remember the horror of the wars, those who fought for our freedom, and commit to world peace by saying, “No more!” I think the word ‘peace’ is one of the most used and abused words, like ‘love’. Beauty pageant contestants used to all wish for world peace, making the task of working towards it feel cheap and trivial. Also, the word ‘peace’ means different things to different people, and even for the same people, if they are in different situations. We might do yoga or meditation to calm our chattering minds. If our young children are wreaking havoc in the house, we might say, “Can’t I have a minute of peace in this house?” But people living in war zones might feel quite differently about peace.  more —>

Reflection: Nov 4: Together Forever

Reflection for Nov. 4, 2018 (All Saints’ Sunday)

Revelation 12:1-6a/ John 11:32-44/ Isaiah 25:6-9

Together Forever

Today, I will open with some Halloween jokes. What are ghosts’ favorite trees? Ceme-trees. Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road? He didn’t have the guts. Why are graveyards noisy? Because of all the coffin’. When is it bad luck to meet a black cat? When you are a mouse. Why are vampires tough to get along with? Because they can be pains in the neck. I think they are a bit lame, but they were the best I could find on the internet. My favorite is the black cat joke.  more —>

Reflection: Oct 28: The Desperate, the Encouragers, and the Discouragers

Reflection for Oct. 28, 2018

Mark 10:46-52

The Desperate, the Encouragers, and the Discouragers

Today, I will start with two stories. The first story is about a boy who loved drawing. It’s from a very beautiful book called The Little Prince. One day, he drew this picture (boa digesting an elephant without the inside view) and showed it to the grownups. They thought it was a hat. So, he drew them this picture (inside view of a boa digesting an elephant). Grownups said, “Drawing is silly. Why don’t you go and study math and history?” So, he became sad, stopped drawing, and became a pilot. But when his plane crashed and he met a beautiful little prince who asked him to draw him a lamb, this is what he drew because he had stopped drawing when he was young (bad drawing of a lamb). The Little Prince said, “That doesn’t look like a lamb. Draw me another one.” He drew him another one but the Little Prince said, “That doesn’t look like a lamb. Draw me another one.” So, he drew a box instead and said, “Here. The lamb you want is in the box.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when a child doesn’t get the encouragement he or she needs to succeed. He could have drawn a better-looking lamb! more —>

Reflection: Oct 21: When We Work Together, We Can Do Anything

Oct. 21, 2018 Reflection 

Mark 10:35-45/ Philippians 2:1-8

When We Work Together, We Can Do Anything

Earlier, we heard the story of Anansi and the Sky Kingdom. When the King Lion was recruiting a volunteer to go to the Sky Kingdom to ask for light, those who considered themselves strong and able stepped up. They were able, but not able enough to reach the Sky Kingdom. According to our common sense, if anyone had a chance of succeeding the task, it was the strong and abled ones, but they ended up failing. When a spider named Anansi volunteered, they laughed at him because he is such a small animal. But what they didn’t think of was Anansi’s ability to work together with friends. Think about his friends Fly and Ant; they are both small and insignificant, in general. But we witnessed how together the three of them could complete the task that not even the strongest of the others could complete alone. Each of the three little guys contributed their abilities. The spider spun a web and the ant bit off the cloud to make a way in. Fly with his whole family, they could eat all the fruit. Ant with his family could cut all the blades of grass. What one strong and abled individual could not do, three tiny animals could do by contributing their small abilities. Therefore, the clever spider Anansi declares at the end, “When we work together, we can do anything.” more —>

Reflection: Oct 7: Yet, I Will Rejoice in the Lord

Oct. 7, 2018 Reflection (Thanksgiving Sunday)

Matthew 6:25-34/ Joel 2:21-27

Yet, I Will Rejoice in the Lord

When I was young and my father came back from work or from being out of town for his work, I would earnestly wait for him to come back, not so much because I missed him but to see what he brought home. My favorite days were when he brought ice-cream home. So, when he came home from work, I would run out to greet him with an enthusiastic “Daddy!” and if he had nothing in his hands, I would just go back to my room disappointed while borderline ignoring his presence. I was a child, had an impression that he was going to be around forever, and was more interested in his gifts than in him. Then later on in life, one of the people I consider as my spiritual mentors wrote a wonderful book about prayer through which I learned that the primary purpose of prayer is our relationship and fellowship with God. more —>

Reflection: Sept 30: What is Creation Saying to Us?

September 30, 2018 Reflection

Matthew 24:32-36/ Romans 8:18-23

What is Creation Saying to Us?

Have you ever seen one of the optical illusion images or images where you have to find hidden objects? If so, you will know that both require paying close attention. There are certain things that we cannot see unless we pay close attention. Sounds are the same; if we don’t pay attention, there are sounds that we can miss. For example, I struggle to understand a lot of song lyrics. A lot of times, we have difficulty paying attention. Have you ever almost hit a deer while driving on the highway, especially at night? They can suddenly appear in front of you, can’t they? According to my experience, it can happen even if you pay attention. In a lot of things, it is important to pay close attention. more —>

Reflection: Sept 23: Protectors of the Earth

September 23, 2018 Reflection

Mark 9:33-37/ James 3:13-18

Protectors of the Earth

Those of you who have known me for a while will know that I like superhero movies. The past two years were awesome for the superhero movie world thanks to Wonder Woman and Black Panther. Wonder Woman, I’m sure you are familiar with her from the old TV series; they made the Wonder Woman movie last year and it was inspirational to many young girls. Black Panther is about a fictional African country with a king who becomes the superhero called Black Panther, and his women warriors. As a woman and a person of colour, those two movies were truly inspiring. All superheroes have different motivations for fighting; some are selfless and noble, but some are not. Spiderman is a good example of a superhero who sees one’s power as a privilege and uses it to help people. Wonder Woman also has a sense of vocation; as an Amazon, a female warrior race, she believes that it is her sacred duty to defend the world. Her heart breaks when she sees the suffering of the people during World War I, and that is her motivation for fighting. When we have more power, wealth, and other privileges than others, it is easy to think it is ours to enjoy. However, these superheroes such as Spiderman and Wonder Woman teach us that privilege comes with responsibility; we should help others with our privileges instead of indulging in them for our greed. This belief that privilege should be used for a greater good is the kind of wisdom that we learn from the Book of James. 

Today’s text in the Book of James teaches us of two kinds of wisdom; wisdom from heaven and the earthly wisdom. It says the wisdom from heaven is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. It says bitter envy, selfish ambition, boastfulness, and falsity do not come from heaven. If our wisdom involves selfishly pursuing our ambition and greed, we will know that it didn’t come from God. If we have a superpower and it makes us want to dominate the world, we will know that this thought didn’t come from God. But if we have a superpower and think of how many people we can help and save from oppression, we will know that this thought certainly did come from God. more —>

Reflection: Sept 16: Creation One with God

September 16, 2018 Reflection

Acts 17:22-28/ Romans 8:35-39

Creation One with God

How many of you own a cell phone, also known as a mobile phone? It’s a mobile device, so the battery has to be charged before leaving home. I don’t know if those of you who use cell phones have ever noticed this, but sometimes the phone becomes very warm. Of course, it becomes warm if you use it for a long time, and it means the battery is being drained; but sometimes it becomes warm and the battery power drains when you’re not using it. Can you guess why it would use battery power when you’re not even using the phone? It’s because the machine is searching for a cell signal when it is weak. It’s quite amazing that this little machine does that. Cell phones are created to be used only in locations where there are cell towers and they can get cell signals; so, when they are far away from the signal, they drain energy searching for it. It’s kind of like sunflowers too. The English name of this flower is a bit ambiguous except that it makes us think this flower likes the sun. However, if you look at the French word for this flower, it gets easier to understand what this flower does; the French name for sunflower, tournesol, means ‘turning towards the sun.’ This is a flower that turns towards the sun. That was your little dose of trivia for this week about the cell phone and the sunflower. more —>